So...you understand our various program offerings - but we'd like you to understand more fully how we approach students and learning at each level. Below we explain our grammar school levels - Junior Kindergarten, Kindergarten, Primary and Intermediate. As you might guess, we are not nearly as interested in "grade levels" as we are in stages of development and learning - you will come to refer to a first grader as a "primary student" and a fourth grader as an "intermediate student." This helps eliminate the stringent measures our world is prone to give to a student in a certain level, allows the student to flourish at his or her ultimate learning level, and allows us to focus on the heart of learning rather than the test most kids at other schools take at the end of the year.
Primary (grades 1 & 2): The Emergent Learner
The primary years at the SLO Classical Academy provide the underpinning for success in all of the goals of the entire school, namely, to establish a foundation of learning that will nurture and motivate independent, analytical thinkers. Eventually, these natural leaders can effectively communicate and support their ideas orally and in written form. In order to do achieve this, students, parents and teachers agree to work towards:
Strong Academic Skills - Our students come from a variety of experiences and classical education may be a new approach for many families. As such, it is vital that there be consistency in the basic skills instruction. Students who have a good base will continue to build. The teachers and parents will work together to help the students achieve a sound academic foundation in math, reading and writing.
Parents will be committed to basic reading instruction that will be the groundwork for all other content areas. This will include phonics instruction. They will also read the assigned literature with their student and help their student's ability to grasp new concepts through discussion. Teachers will create lessons that build on thoughtful processing and synthesis of conceptual understanding.
During home studies, parents will instruct on a variety of techniques that are among the pinnacles of classical education. Included are handwriting practice, copy work, dictation, narration, memorization, and recitation.
Parents will support the classroom teacher by following along the content areas in math during home instruction. If there are areas of concern, parents will communicate with classroom teacher. While working on a variety of math concepts, parents will continue to have students practice basic math fact memorization and work on computation skills all throughout the year.
Strong Analytical Skills - Using our history, literature and science as opportunities for discussion, students will be challenged to apply ideas from the past to the present. As students are exposed to new information, they will have the opportunity to discuss and digest what they are exposed to so that they learn to absorb increasing amounts of information. The student's ability to get the big picture, the themes across literature and history, and the ability to make connections with their own lives will be promoted with assignments in all areas.
Strong Character - Although they are among the youngest students of our school, how the primary students act and treat others is of utmost importance. The establishment of this responsibility for self early on is paramount. There are many opportunities to help students grow in this area from the simple (like completion of assignments on time and bringing of materials to school) to the profound (a discussion in history about owning slaves). The student's management of learning materials at school and home, and the transition between the two is an important part of emerging organizational skills at this level. Community service, behavior accountability and discussion will help the students grow towards autonomy and responsibility.
Intermediate (grades 3 & 4): The Assisted Learner
The intermediate level of the SLO Classical Academy is an extremely important time in the life of a classical learner. The assisted learner is now required to put in more structured and concentrated effort to their studies. This is a big change from the “learning strategy” of an emerging learner in the primary level. Intermediates are now exposed to longer pieces of great literature. They are introduced to in depth discussions about character, theme, and historical context. History instruction begins to explore the details that underlay the “big idea” themes. The success of the assisted learner at this point depends largely on the parent/teacher partnership that exists between home and school. This is the stage of learning that prepares students to become Independent Learners. In order to achieve this, students, parents and teachers agree to work towards:
Strong Academic Skills – Basic skills in all areas of learning continue to be of paramount importance. The grammar instruction that occurs at school needs to be reinforced at home. During the two years as an intermediate student, the students will grow in their level of independence. The first year there is an expectation that the parents will strongly support the students as they learn the basics of paragraphs, outlines, and creative writing. The second year, the students will be expected to have a greater level of independence as they practice the same type of skills. This will be excellent preparation for the following year of Lower Middle School. Students will also gain age appropriate basic math skills. Most assisted learners will need to have their literature selections read to them. However, independent reading is extremely important and opportunities for this will be provided. Both teachers and parents will work together to help the students achieve these goals. Parents will reinforce classroom instruction and modify and adjust the learning assignments to fit their individual child.
Strong Organizational Skills – During the assisted learning stage personal organization of materials is a foundational skill that needs to be taught, supported, and reinforced both at home and at school. Transporting necessary learning items and assignments between home and school becomes a larger responsibility during this stage, and being organized in a thoughtful and intentional manner will make success in this area easier to attain. Parents need to assist their child with basic organizational tasks by helping him/her sort through their backpack and cubby on a regular basis until the child can competently complete these tasks independently. Teachers commit to providing written and oral prompts as to where and how assignments and papers are to be completed and organized. Teachers will also create an environment in the classroom that nurtures growth in personal responsibility over learning materials and assignments.
Strong Analytical Skills – Using our history, literature, and science as opportunities for discussion, students will be introduced to critical analysis through guided discussions of what they read, hear, and speak. The student’s emerging ability to get the big picture, the themes across literature and history, and the ability to make connections with their own lives will be nurtured. Parents will read the assigned literature with their student and help their student’s power of analysis grow through prompting questions and directed conversation. Teachers will create lessons that build on thoughtful processing and synthesis of conceptual understanding.
Strong Character - How they act and treat others continues to be of paramount importance. The responsibility for personal character lies with the individual assisted learner. Respect of others and respect of self become the main boundaries for all intermediate learning and interactions. This respect surrounds all aspects of academic success, from basic assignment completion to the creation of a safe classroom environment where honest discussions and interactions with literature and history can occur. Parents and teachers agree to partner in maintaining and implementing age-appropriate standards of excellence and personal responsibility. Parents and teachers also agree to offer assistance as needed, all the while providing opportunities for growth in independence.